Creffield and the Holy Rollers made page one headlines from 1903 to 1907. When I was researching Holy Rollers: Murder and Madness in Oregon’s Love Cult I spent months transcribing hundreds of articles. I’m not sure why I was so obsessive. Maybe it was my way of immersing my self into a cult without joining one. Anyway, I’m posting them all for those who are really interested in the story, or are interested the history of journalism, or are interested in how a scandalous story played out in the "media" in a by gone era. Since I no doubt made typos and unconsciously corrected papers' typos, these web pages should not be cited in anything serious (e.g. your dissertation). For such projects they should only be used as starting points and you should refer to the original sources. If you want a shorter version of the story, buy my book. Enjoy.
November 20, 1906: Mrs. Creffield Killed Herself with Poison!
HEADLINES IN PAPERS FOR THE SAME ARTICLE
Seattle Daily Times 11/20/1906 p1
Mrs. Creffield Killed Herself with Poison!
Maud Creffield Died By Her Own Hand
Widow of Holy Roller Leader Committed Suicide by Taking Strychnine in Her Cell in the County Jail.
Chemical Analysis Of Stomach Shows Poison
Jail Officers Say Drug Could Not Have Reached Her Except Through Visitors Who Had Called to See Her.
Corvallis Times 11/23/1906 p1
Died From Poison
Strychnine Found In Mrs. Creffield’s Stomach.
Esther Mitchell Declares Her Cell Mate Did Not Commit Suicide.
Coroner Accepts the Report of the Commission.
AN ABRIDGED VERSION OF THE SAME ARTICLE ALSO APPEARED IN
Daily Oregon Statesman (Salem) 11/21/1906 p1
Case of Suicide
Chemists Find Strychnine Cause Death Of Mrs. Maud Creffield,
Analysis of Contents of Dead Woman’s Stomach Reveals More Than Enough Poison to Cause Death--Cousin Last Visitor Before Suicide.
Maud Creffield committed suicide! Her sudden death in the county jail last Friday night was caused by strychnine poisoning. That fact was positively determined this afternoon when Osseward & Rubenstein, chemists, who analyzed the stomach of the woman, made their formal report to Coroner Frank M. Carroll, who immediately signed the death certificate assigning the cause of the demise as suicide by strychnine poisoning.
An exceedingly careful analysis of the stomach was made under the personal direction of Dr. Carroll, and the completion of that test today showed beyond all question of doubt the presence of strychnine, one of the most effective poisons known to chemists. Just in what form it was taken the chemists are unable to say, but it is the opinion of Dr. Carroll that the crystallized form was used.
The finding of the strychnine confirms the original opinion of Dr. Carroll that some irritant in the stomach was responsible for the congestion at the base of the brain that brought on convulsions. There was proof at the autopsy that the woman had bitten her tongue, this having occurred as the convulsion from the poison took hold of her. The statement from Esther Mitchell that Maud Creffield suddenly became ill and instantly straightened out, her muscles then expanding and afterward contracting, goes to bear out the symptoms now proved by the analysis.
JAILERS MAKE SEARCH
At the county jail this afternoon it was stated that immediately after the death of Mrs. Creffield the closest search of her cell was made to see if any means could be found by which she could have ended her life, and that search after search was made, and nothing was found. So far as the jailers can remember, Mrs. Creffield had no visitors on Friday. The day before, however, a cousin, Miss Laveney (sic) of Seattle, visited her. Miss Laveney, the officers believe, was the last person with Mrs. Creffield except the jailers and the prisoners. It may have been possible, they admit, that a visitor gave her the strychnine many days before the day of death.
Sheriff Smith was not at his office this afternoon. His chief deputy, Ed Drew, said the finding of the chemists was a total surprise to him, but that he did not care at this time to make any further public statement than that issued on the morning following the woman’s death, when the sheriff said he could not believe that death was caused by suicide.
“The finding of the poison in the stomach proves conclusively that Mrs. Creffield did not die of natural causes,” said Coroner Carroll this afternoon. “There can be no further question about her suicide for the analysis proves it positively. How the woman got the drug, is of course unknown to me, but I do believe death was by suicide, and shall officially find death from that cause.
HAD THOUGHT OF SUICIDE
The discovery that Mrs. Creffield came to her death by suicide justifies in a remarkable way the statements published in The Sunday Times made by Dr. Kenneth Turner, who was chairman of the court commission which recently examined into the sanity of the woman. Dr. Turner stated that in his physical examination, less than two months ago, he found every organ in Mrs. Creffield’s body in healthy condition that made the development of any fatal disease in such a short period exceedingly improbable. Continuing, Dr. Turner said:
As to the suicide theory, I have not ventured even to form an opinion. I do not know. I can’t satisfy my own mind. During the hearing, the woman admitted that she had often considered committing suicide. In despondent moments she said that the thought had often come to her. She said that she would have killed herself had she not been commanded by a voice from Heaven not to yield to the thought. If she heard the voice of her husband calling to her to commit suicide, I would not be at all surprised if she did.
“When I read the report of Mrs. Creffield’s death, the first thought that occurred to me was, ‘How long will it be before Esther Mitchell commits suicide.”
Mrs. Creffield’s body was buried yesterday afternoon in Lakeview Cemetery in a lot purchased by her father, O. V. Hurt. Tomorrow the body of her husband will be disinterred and laid beside that of his wife.
ESTHER MITCHELL DENIES IT
Esther Mitchell this afternoon emphatically declares her belief that Maud Creffield had not committed suicide and insisted that she was so intimate with Mrs. Creffield, that she would have known about it if the Holy Roller’s widow planned self destruction.
“Maud never took poison,” declared Esther Mitchell. “We were very intimate and knew each other’s innermost secrets. If Maud had planned to take poison, I certainly would have known about it, and she never told me anything of it.
“Maud Creffield believed suicide was cowardly and always insisted that she could not take her life. I do not believe that she could have changed her views.
“It would have been impossible for Maud to have taken poison without my knowing it unless she did it that night when she went out to take a bath. She was gone only a few minutes, and this was the only time she was out of my sight. She certainly did not take the poison when I was around.”
MRS. LEVINS’ STATEMENT
May Hurt, sister of Mrs. Creffield, and Mrs. Levins, called at the jail this afternoon to see Esther Mitchell. Mrs. Levins had seen Mrs. Creffield the afternoon before she died.
“I saw Mrs. Creffield, but certainly I did not bring her any poison,” said Mrs. Levins. “Maud Creffield did not want poison. We had talked several times of suicide and Mrs. Creffield always said that self-destruction was cowardly. But for the fact that it was cowardly and that God had forbidden her to commit suicide, Mrs. Creffield frequently said she would like to kill herself, for she had no desire to live. But she always told me that it was her duty to live and meet whatever punishment was given her, and declared she was going to do it.”
Jail officers say Mrs. Levins and the parents of Mrs. Creffield are the only persons who could have smuggled in the strychnine, and they discredit the findings of the physicians. Chief Deputy Sheriff Drew declares that every precaution was taken to prevent Maud Creffield’s death.
Alana Crow and David Poland
as Sarah & O.V. Hurt
Seattle Star 11/20/1906 p1
Maud Creffield Died By Her Own Hand
Analysis of Contents of the Stomach Shows the Presence of Strychnine in Sufficient Quantity to Cause Instant Death--Coroner Carroll Will Certify That Woman Took Her Own Life.
Strychnine in sufficient quantities to have caused instant death has been found in the stomach of Mrs. Maud Creffield.
In view of the finding a verdict of suicide is to be returned by the coroner, probably today.
The presence of the poison in Mrs. Creffield’s stomach was determined by Chemists Osseward and Rubenstein, who were engaged by Coroner Carroll to make the chemical analysis.
Chemists Osseward and Rubenstein made their report in writing, and in official form, although their investigation is not yet entirely complete.
It is believed that when the analysis is entirely complete that enough of the poison will have been found in Mrs. Creffield’s stomach to have caused the death of at least three persons.
SURPRISED THE CORONER
The findings of the chemists came as a surprise to the coroner, who at the time of Mrs. Creffield’s death in her cell at the county jail declared it his belief that she died of heart failure.
This story was shattered somewhat when, at the post mortem examination, as told exclusively in The Star, the heart was found in good condition, and the indications of the suicide became more pronounced.
In view of the results of the analytical investigations it is now believed by the police that Esther Mitchell, who murdered her brother, knew all the while that it was a case of suicide.
It is even believed from the intimacy that existed between the two women, that Mrs. Creffield told the Mitchell girl of her desperate intention, and that the girl’s horrified expressions of grief as she held the dying woman’s head in her lap were merely the utterings of a consummate actress.
ESTHER MITCHELL PLEADS IGNORANCE
Esther Mitchell, on the other hand however insisted when seen at the county jail this afternoon that she did not know that Mrs. Creffield killed herself, and she even went so far as to state that she does not believe it now.
“Mrs. Creffield often told me that she wanted to die, but I do not believe that she killed herself.
“She was not afraid of the law. I swear to God that she never told me she was going to kill herself. I would have prevented her.”
Despite the girl’s denials the police do not believe her, and she will be doubly watched to prevent her from also committing suicide
“The theory of suicide is correct,” said Prosecuting Attorney Kenneth Mackintosh to a Star reporter this afternoon. “I shall not order an investigation. That must be ordered by Sheriff Smith. If he needs any assistance, of course my services will be donated.
JOHN F. MILLER DOUBTS IT
Assistant Prosecuting Attorney Miller, who was actively engaged in the case against Mrs. Creffield, does not look with favor on the suicide theory.
“I do not believe that Mrs. Creffield took poison,” he said. “If she did why didn’t Esther Mitchell? The two were boon (sic) companions.”
“If Mrs. Creffield did take poison, as the coroner’s autopsy intimates, then it must have been given to her the day before she died. Mrs. Levins, Mrs. Creffield’s cousin, who lives on Pike St., was the last relative to visit her. She was with Mrs. Creffield the day before she died, which was last Thursday.
BROTHER NOT INTERESTED
Frank Hurt, brother of Mrs. Creffield, when seen this afternoon by a Star reporter and informed of the probable suicide of his sister, stated that he had nothing to say. He appeared to take no interest in the report one way or the other.
When asked to explain how it was possible for poison to be smuggled into Mrs. Creffield’s cell, if it was smuggled, Jailer Larson declared this afternoon that it was as great a mystery to him as to anybody else.
“We are very careful about such things,” he said, “and persons who are liable to kill themselves, as well as everyone else, is closely watched all the time they are here.
“Mrs. Creffield’s cell was searched only a few days ago, and we are certain there was no poison concealed anywhere at the time.
Jailer Larsen insisted that every package coming into the jail is closely watched, but this is contrary to what daily visitors to the jail have observed.
HEADLINES IN PAPERS FOR THE SAME ARTICLE
Oregon Daily Journal (Portland) 11/20/1906
Creffield’s Widow Died From Poison
Corvallis Gazette 11/23/1906 p1
It Was Poison
Autopsy Shows Stomach of Dead Woman Contained Evidence of Murder or Suicide
Probably Killed Herself to Prevent Trial, as She Had Often Threatened to Do in Past--Esther Mitchell Supposed to Have Known Cause of Death.
(Special Dispatch to The Journal)
Seattle, Wash., Nov. 20.-- The coroner’s physicians who analyzed the stomach of Mrs. Maud Creffield, the widow of the late Edmund “Joshua” Creffield, the Holy Roller leader, reported this afternoon that enough poison was found in the stomach of the dead woman to kill several persons. It is therefore evident that the woman was either murdered or committed suicide, probably the latter.
Mrs. Creffield was the daughter of O. V. Hurt of Corvallis. At the time of her death she was in prison with Esther Mitchell, both charged with the murder of Esther’s brother, George Mitchell, who was killed by his sister in revenge for the murder of Creffield. She died suddenly about midnight last Friday night, supposedly from heart disease. She was buried yesterday beside the body of her husband. Esther Mitchell, who attended, exhibited the first sign of emotion she has shown since her crime, and it was believed that the hypnotic spell under which Esther had been held by the elder woman was broken.
Suicide was threatened by both women when first arrested and a close watch kept over them to prevent them from carrying out their threats. Both expressed a desire to die frequently. Later, however, officials have been off their guard by the changed demeanor of the women which is believed now to have only been a ruse to secure the poison.
How the poison was smuggled in is a mystery. It is believed, however, the Esther Mitchell is in the secret. The closest kind of a watch is being kept upon her to prevent her following in the footsteps of her friend the mentor.